Friday, February 6, 2015

2015 Mock Caldecott

One of my favorite activities to do with classes is to connect them with other classes outside of their own school. In the past I've helped classes participate in the Global Read Aloud and Mystery Skypes. This past week I was able to watch two elementary schools Skype together for a Mock Caldecott.

I got the idea of Mock Caldecott last year from some blogs that I follow. I put out a request to my schools to see if anyone wanted to participate. I was lucky enough to have two librarians agree to do it. I had initially hoped to connect them with schools outside of Nevada, but I wasn't able to make those connections, so they agreed to do the Mock Caldecott with each other.

I showed them all the material I had, explained how a Mock Caldecott worked and showed them some book lists that I had seen on the web. Then I got out of their way and let them be librarians!

As the time got closer for our Skype session, I stepped in again to help with the technical side. I made sure both schools had Skype installed and they did a trial run to make sure they could communicate. The day of the Skype I was at Gilbert to help with their side of the session.

Wendy Payer, librarian at Gilbert Elementary, explains how the process worked from her point of view:

We've been studying Caldecott possibilities since the beginning of January. Ms. Streng and I looked on blogs, in publications such as School Library Journal, etc. for those books that had "Caldecott buzz" because of their outstanding illustrations. It took us awhile, but we narrowed it down to 6 books:
  • Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
  • My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not) by Peter Brown
  • Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood
  • Gravity by Jason Chin
  • Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
  • Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
To these, I added Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly and Gaston by Kelly diPucchio; I know Ms. Streng added some titles, as well.

I created a critique format for each of grades 3-5 asking students to evaluate how well the illustrator conveyed character and character traits, setting, overall mood, and the students' personal opinion. In addition, each grade had to write a brief response based upon CCSS RL.(3/4/5).7.

I created an anchor chart for the steps I wanted the students to follow for evaluating the books, as well as a reminder of the steps for Visual Thinking Strategies, an arts-integration strategy we use at Gilbert.

The first week, I modeled the process with Emily's Blue Period. In the following weeks, I placed each of the books at a separate table and had the students rotate in small groups to evaluate the books and fill out their critique forms. Since we didn't do this for the 6-7 weeks it would have taken for each group to read each book, I let students choose their books the final week.

The actual Skype session took me by surprise, because I wasn't expecting my first group of third graders to completely clam up. In our debriefing afterwards, they told me they were "freaked out" because the kids at Triggs were strangers, and 5th graders! If I were to do this again, I would match grade levels more closely, at least for their first attempts at Skyping. I also would take another week or two, regardless of when the actual award is announced, so that my students could practice presenting their chosen books. That being said, I think my students learned a lot about how hard it is to communicate remotely; even though it seems like it would be easy, it's not. You have to consider voice level, placement of the computer, how you're going to show the other class the illustrations you're talking about, etc.

I've talked to my principal about this experience, and we're going to try having my classes Skype with her from her office so they can get some experience with the process. Hopefully this will build their familiarity and confidence so that we can all be more successful next time! This is absolutely something I want my students to continue to do.

Teanna Streng, librarian at Triggs Elementary, explains how she prepared for the event:

As a new librarian, I was unsure about taking on the task of participating in a Mock Caldecott.  After the experience, I can say I'm looking forward to making it a tradition at my school!

The first week, I introduced my students to the award, discussed the criteria the judges use to select a winner, read aloud previous Caldecott winners, and allowed students the opportunity to look at a variety of past Caldecott award winning titles.

The second week, I provided my students with a "kid friendly" Caldecott scoring sheet.  I allowed students to work in teams to score and discuss several "Caldecott Contenders."I chose 18 "Caldecott Contenders" by consulting a variety of websites and looking for titles that were featured on multiple lists of books being considered for the award.  We narrowed down the selection of 18 titles, to our top 6 for a school wide vote.

The third week, I reviewed the judging criteria and read aloud 2-3 of the "Caldecott Contenders," from our top 6.  5th grade students worked in teams to create supporting statements for each of the judging criteria for their chosen book.  Students in grades 1-4, wrote an opinion statement on large sheets of butcher paper for their favorite book to win the Caldecott "I like this book because____." or "I think this book should win because____."  I created a Google form with the 6 titles, and students voted for their favorite book on the library computers.

At the end of the week, I chose 4 teams of 5th grade students with the strongest arguments for their books to Skype with students at another school.  During the Skype session, groups took turns making their claims for the books they wanted to win the Caldecott award and asked clarifying questions about the titles being shared.

I calculated the votes, and made an announcement during our school's morning newscast for the official Caldecott Award winners, and the results of our school wide "Best Picture Book" vote.  Our school's top 2 choices (Hug Machine and Baby Bear) did not receive any Caldecott awards, but our 3rd place title "The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend," was awarded the Caldecott, and our 4th place title "Sam and Dave Dig a Hole," was given a Caldecott Honor award.

This activity incorporated a variety of ELA and library standards, including reading award winning literature, understanding character, setting, and events using details from illustrations, forming/writing opinions, and collaborating with others using technology (Google Forms/Skype).

Teachers shared with me how excited the students were when the announcements were made, and the students have been eager to check out all of the titles we've been discussing.  I think it was a great learning experience, and helped the students participate in meaningful conversations about literature across grade levels, and for those who participated in the Skype, across our school district.  I'm already looking forward to next year's Mock Caldecott!  
 I am thrilled that I was able to bring these schools together! I believe that it will be an experience that students will remember. As an avid reader who absolutely loves picture books, it was awesome to see the entire school get into the books and take part in the voting. As a techie nerd who loves global collaboration, it was awesome to see two schools connect and share via Skype!

Could this entire project have been done without Skype? Of course! But sharing makes it more authentic and sharing with another school entirely brings the world just a little bit closer!

I look forward to working with these schools, and hopefully others, next year.

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